In ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ all the birds are wet from swimming.
They need to get dry so the Dodo suggests a ‘Caucus Race’.
No one knows what that is so the Dodo says: “Start running and I’ll tell you when it’s over”.
Everyone runs around in different directions until they’re dry and the Dodo shouts: “Stop, the race is finished.”
Since they all ran different distances at different speeds, they want to know how he can tell who won.
The Dodo doesn’t want to disappoint anyone so he says, “You all won, and so all must have prizes”.
The Dodo asks Alice to hand out the prizes, all she has is a tin of sweets so she gives everyone a sweet each.
But one of the birds says “If we all must have prizes she must have one too”.
Alice looks in her pocket but all she has left is a thimble.
The Dodo takes it, and solemnly presents it back to her as her prize.
Alice knows this is nonsense but doesn’t want to offend anyone so she accepts it.
Now all the birds are dry and happy because “all must have prizes”.
What has escaped everyone’s attention is that there can be no winner.
If no one can lose then no one can win and there is no race, so there is no point in trying.
Because if there is no race there is no game, and if there is no game there is no fun.
What “all must have prizes” does is remove any aspect of competition, and consequently fun, from the process.
The “all must have prizes” attitude believes that competition is a bad thing, that it isn’t kind or fair to have losers, consequently everyone must win.
This is disastrous in advertising.
A consumer cannot buy one of every product, one of every brand.
The consumer has to choose one brand over another brand and it’s our job to make sure they choose the brand we’re being paid to advertise.
Let’s be clear about that, we are not the Consumer Advisory Service.
We are not in business to provide consumers with enough information to choose the optimal brand even if it isn’t ours.
We are paid to promote a certain choice, that means not choosing the competitor.
The key word here is ‘competitor’ because advertising is a competition.
We are competing with all the other brands in our client’s market for the consumer’s money.
For that, we have to believe that “competition is a good thing”.
We have to want to win on our client’s behalf which means “NOT all shall have prizes”.
That’s the game, that’s the fun.
Because competition is fun, that’s why millions of people play golf every weekend, watch the Olympics every 4 years, watch football every Saturday, cricket and tennis every summer, panel-games, quiz shows, and talent shows on the TV.
Someone wins and someone loses, but it’s not life or death, it’s fun to compete.
That’s when advertising was fun.
When it was Apple versus PC, or Virgin versus BA, or Avis versus Hertz, or Burger King versus McDonalds, or VW versus Detroit, or advertising versus TV programmes.
Competition is more fun for everyone, the people involved and the people watching.
The client, if they’re doing their job, wants us to beat their competition.
They don’t want brand-purpose that makes everyone feel good.
They want us to divert money away from their competitor’s brand towards their own.
That’s what we’re being paid for.
Not to make sure that no one has their feelings hurt.
NOT to make sure that all must have prizes.